Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly On Set Interview – STEP BROTHERS

     May 29, 2008

Back in October of last year I got to do something really cool….I visited the set of the upcoming Will Ferrell comedy “Step Brothers.” If you haven’t heard of the film yet, “Step Brothers” stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as two grown men that still live at home.

Will plays Brennan Huff, a sporadically employed thirty-nine-year-old who lives with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). John plays Dale Doback, a terminally unemployed forty-year-old who lives with his father, Robert (Richard Jenkins). When Robert and Nancy marry and move in together, Brennan and Dale are forced to live with each other as step brothers. As their narcissism and downright aggressive laziness threaten to tear the family apart, these two middle-aged, immature, overgrown boys will orchestrate an insane, elaborate plan to bring their parents back together. To pull it off, they must form an unlikely bond that maybe, just maybe, will finally get them out of the house.

While the synopsis sounds like gold to me, I’m even more excited as “Step Brothers” reteams Will with director Adam McKay. Perhaps you saw their last two films… “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” To me, both of those films are classics and as soon as I’d heard about “Step Brothers,” I couldn’t wait to see it.

So you could imagine how happy I was to get the invite to the set. Not only would I get to watch Will and John interact on a comedy, I’d also get to see how Adam McKay directs the two and I’d learn first hand how much gets improvised and how much is scripted.

While I’ll be writing up an extensive report of what I saw (it’ll be online tomorrow or Friday), I’ll leave you with one thing…being on set with these guys is a recipe for laughter. More than once, the group of journalists I was with laughed out loud and I thought we were all going to be thrown off set. When you’re on a movie set, laughing when the cameras are rolling (while it makes everyone feel good) is not something professionals do. Thankfully, they didn’t mind us laughing almost non-stop.

Anyway, posted below is the first on set interview and it’s with Will and John. As you can imagine, it’s all over the place…but it’s funny and worth reading. As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. In the coming days, I’ll have two more interviews from the set, as well as my full set report.

And before getting to the interview…I’ve been given a short video of some behind the scenes footage from the making of “Step Brothers.” If you’re curious what being on a movie set is like…watch it. If not, enjoy the interview below…

“Step Brothers” hits theaters July 25th.

Will sees us all and notices a lot of us are wearing black.

Will Ferrell: I want to make sure the online press only wears black today. (Laughter) Oh good, you guys got the memo.

Q: Will the Star Wars sweat pants, are you enjoying wearing them?

John C. Reilly: Pajamas

Will Ferrell: Pajamas, yeah.

Q: What happened to your head? (Referring to ice pack strapped to his head)

John C. Reilly: It is for the scene. We got in a fight in the movie and we are in the recovery stage right here.

Q: Was this a drum accident?

John C. Reilly: No, we have a big fight on the lawn and I hit Will with a baseball bat

Will Ferrell: It was a simultaneous knock out.

John C. Reilly: He hits me with a driver, golf club.

Will Ferrell: (says in unison with John) golf club.

Q: What did you guys do to the dry wall?

WF: We slammed each other into it. This is all a fight over who touched John’s drum set. Whether I did.

Q: Did you?

WF: I would say I didn’t, but you’ll have to watch the movie.

JCR: I have forensic evidence. However, we have no witnesses.

Q: Does your character ever allow Will’s character back into the beat laboratory?

JCR: He’s allowed to go back in there eventually, but never to touch the drums even when we become very close friends.

WF: I can just hover in there, that’s it.

Q: Can you talk about how working on Talladega Nights possibly led to a more shorthand, comedic sort of thing?

JCR: Yeah, well that’s where we developed the hand signals.

WF: It is like a 300 page, Morse code like booklet that we pass out to the crew, to visitors, you guys will get it later on your departure.

JCR: The movie is virtually indecipherable if you don’t have this book too so, the studio coughed up the cost to provide one to every audience member.

WF: We are going to hand them out at the theater as well to decipher the film, but we think it will be a cool novelty item 20 years from now.

JCR: We were friends before we did Talladega so we had some type of shorthand before that even, right?

WF: Yeah. This whole, it is funny its been an interesting movie in that we kind of started out with a bunch of physical things and we hadn’t actually done scenes yet so in terms of the way we responded with each other’s characters we were almost figuring that out a little after the fact. Which I think would have been a lot harder if we hadn’t known each other that well.

JCR: A lot of the shorthand in this movie too comes from the fact that we all kind of figured out the story together, Will and Adam and I so we all told each other stories from our past.

WF: And put it in the script, so by the time we filmed it …

JCR: By the time it got in the script we all knew where the stories had come from and what the intent was.

Q: I know you guys had this concept back when you made Talladega Nights, so where did this idea come from originally?

JCR: It wasn’t that far back was it?

WF: No, we just had the idea of trying to work together again, but in terms of a specific idea it wasn’t until meeting back in Los Angeles and pitching a bunch of things and then it was really, we had settled on two or three options and I think Adam called us the next day and said “Here’s a totally brand new idea that we hadn’t thought about” and it was this one and we were, “Oh”.

Q: How did the writing work?

WF: Actually, I shouldn’t even say this – we farmed it out to China. There are a group of writers who work, they are called the Omega group and they are pretty close to our voice, there were some cultural things that were slightly different.

JCR: All the script notes came from India. And they would just talk to the writers in China.

WF: It was a very belabored process, but we didn’t have to do any of it, which was great.

Q: Do any of your friends make appearances, for example the people you have worked with in other films?

JCR: When you say “friends” …

Q: I don’t want to drop any names …

JCR: People we don’t really like that we call our “friends”?

WF: I’m trying to think if any of the friends that you have on your list would be in this movie. There is, once again, an ensemble feel to this film.

JCR: But it is a smaller cast than Talladega so there is less room for people to come in.

WF: there are cameos of other comedic actors that we all love and know.

Q: Who plays your next door neighbor Ralph that you just mentioned?

JCR: I just made that up.

Q: Can you guys talk about working with Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen?

JCR: I have always admired both of them. I did a movie with Mary Steenburgen and Richard I have always admired too so I was thrilled. I wasn’t really part of the decision to get them in the movie because it was happening when I was out of town this summer but I was thrilled.

WF: Yeah, Richard Jenkins was kind of a name we talked about a long time when we were writing the script about how he would be perfect guy to play John’s dad and Mary kind of came later only because we didn’t think she would want to play my mom. She’s so young looking, but she was game. They are not only great actors, but great comedic actors in the style that we like, which is played as real as possible and to let the circumstance be the comedy of it.

continued on page 2 ——>


Q: In the scene that we just watched, it appeared Richard was the hard ass of the two parents and Mary pretend like she is but then she kind of softens up.

JCR: You can’t make too many assumptions about what you see because we are literally completely changing stuff up not doing the script anymore. We are making a whole big pallet of things to choose from and they both, Richard is really upset because we just got in a fight in this scene but he is by no means the hard ass in this movie both parents…

WF: trade off at times.

JCR: The reason that they are able to stay where they are at in their lives is because both parents let it go on.

Q: Can you talk about the freedom of working in R rated environment and not having to hold back.

WF: We just kind of both came from doing R movies before this, but still I’ve never gotten to work with Adam in this setting. It is great to not have to edit yourself in that way just because Anchorman and Talladega we were always like “Is that too much? Do we need to find an alt for that?” That being said, we still find ourselves trying to do a couple takes that are a little less stocked with the F word just in case we have F word overload. We are like addicts who finally get to say bad words.

Q: Do you think the environment is changing at all in comedy that films are being made that are R rated.

WF: In regards to comedy? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think with the success of like every summer there has been a couple R rated comedies that have done so well I think it is so nice to see that people are turning out to see these movies and it doesn’t seem to be as big a stigma with the studios anymore. You know PG-13 used to guarantee a certain box office success and I’m sure they could pull up the statistics to still support that in a way, but it is nice that these other really creative movies that also happen to be R rated are getting a nice shot.

JCR: You know the cable TV effect too, you know watch Bill Maher or Jon Stewart, these guys say basically whatever they want even if they beep it out it used to be they couldn’t even say it to get beeped. I think that is part of it and I think also just so much of media in general is PG like regular radio and regular TV. It is so controlled for so long and I think people have a craving for the truth or like honest expression and people swear more often than they did at least it seems like they do.

WF: It is funny when you get comments back like “That was rated R? Why was it rated R? It didn’t seem that bad.” So I think it is a comment on the rating system as well.

JCR: There is something too about the background of a lot of the people who are doing these kind of R rated comedies now, I know – this is probably true of the Groundlings. I don’t know them, but I’ve heard Adam say…I say “Man, we go really dark sometimes with the language or the scenarios we just let our minds go wherever. So that’s the rule of improv is not about limiting where you are going to go with it, you follow it all the way to the conclusion you are heading toward and that’s what he said “Oh man, at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) or whatever there isn’t a show that goes by without abortion or anal sex or whatever. These are the taboo subjects that come up in comedy. That’s what people go for so it is not so much that we want to be more racy for that reason. We just start improv-ing and coming up with crazy scenarios and end up doing stuff that is more on the edge and it is not so family friendly.

WF: Whether or not we ultimately have it in the movie, it allows you to explore and then come back to another area.

Q: We were talking to someone earlier who said the comedy in this is in general darker. Is that true is maybe a little harder in concept?

WF: I’m not the best one to ask because I never understand. I will watch a movie that is quote unquote dark and not get the qualification of what is dark and what is not.

JCR: It doesn’t seem dark to me [laughs]. It is about two guys who are sort of stuck in their childhood, you know. So it has a certain innocence to it, but I guess we do swear and stuff so if that is dark, that doesn’t seem dark to me. What is darker to me is a movie about dismemberment and taking people hostage and torturing them.

Q: There is none of that in this film?

JCR: Dismemberment? No. Hostages? No.

WF: No, I don’t think so.

Q: Well, you still have a few more days on the shoot so you could.

WF: Yeah, we could add that in.

Q: Can you talk about leaving the nest yourselves? Were you the types to drag your feet?

JCR: No, I couldn’t wait to get out.

WF: I could totally relate to this. I lived at home for three years after college. I had the benefit of a very patient mother who was like alright.

JCR: You had a cozier situation, I had five brothers and sisters so by the time I could at all get out I wanted my own space, which I never had at home.

Q: Was that right at 18?

JCR: Yeah.

Q: Do you guys plan to work together again? Maybe Land of the Lost?

JCR: You got something for John Reilly in that?

WF: We are probably going to do a musical together. Fiddler II.

JCR: Hello Dollies or Two Dollies.

Q: We haven’t had a chance to talk to you since, I’m going to take you back a month or two – there was a coach who went crazy at a press conference saying “I am a man!”

WF: Yeah, I saw that press conference.

Q: A lot of us were talking about how it was you. Did you get a chance to see that?

WF: Yes, it was the guy commenting about the article written about a student athlete. Yes, I saw it but I did not have the reaction of “that’s me” but I did see it, but I didn’t really have a reaction to it either way you know it is something, it is a prime example of something we wouldn’t have had access to 10 years ago now everything is out there for everyone’s eyes to see.

Q: Maybe you were just doing a bit at a press conference, but you had mentioned doing Anchorman II with like foreign correspondents. Is that a reality at all?

WF: No

JCR: Sounds like a bit.

WF: Not as of yet, no.

Q: Did Land of the Lost come because of your name in Jay and Silent Bob or was that totally serendipitous?

WF: Yeah, totally random completely. I worked with the same management who had the rights to – with Sid and Marty Croft blah, blah, blah, yeah.

Q: Are you going to do that as an action comedy or straight comedy or maybe something more serious?

WF: It is going to be very serious; it is going to be kind of on the tone of the English Patient, but with dinosaurs, horribly frighteningly realistic dinosaurs. In fact we only survive for 12 minutes in the movie the rest is mostly just action shots of dinosaurs communicating through sleezestacks. It is going to be more like a nature documentary.

Q: Is it going to be a parody of a spoof of?

WF: It is going to be kind of hopefully like Jurassic Park, it is not going to be a spoof in terms of the look it is going to be as real as possible and hopefully funny.

JCR: Will Ferrell reacting to real dinosaurs that sounds funny to me.

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